Conifers include long-lived evergreen trees of great economic and ecological importance, including pines and spruces. During their long lives conifers must respond to seasonal environmental changes, adapt to unpredictable environmental stresses, and co-ordinate their adaptive adjustments with internal developmental programmes. To gain insights into these responses, we examined metabolite and transcriptomic profiles of needles from naturally growing 25-year-old maritime pine (Pinus pinaster L. Aiton) trees over a year. The effect of environmental parameters such as temperature and rain on needle development were studied. Our results show that seasonal changes in the metabolite profiles were mainly affected by the needles' age and acclimation for winter, but changes in transcript profiles were mainly dependent on climatic factors. The relative abundance of most transcripts correlated well with temperature, particularly for genes involved in photosynthesis or winter acclimation. Gene network analysis revealed relationships between 14 co-expressed gene modules and development and adaptation to environmental stimuli. Novel Myb transcription factors were identified as candidate regulators during needle development. Our systems-based analysis provides integrated data of the seasonal regulation of maritime pine growth, opening new perspectives for understanding the complex regulatory mechanisms underlying conifers' adaptive responses. Taken together, our results suggest that the environment regulates the transcriptome for fine tuning of the metabolome during development.
Keywords: Adaptation; Pinus pinaster.; development; gene co-expression analysis; metabolite profiling; needles.
© The Author 2015. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Society for Experimental Biology.